Nicholas Jackson studied composition with Edmund Rubbra and John
Gardner, organ with C.H. Trevor and harpsichord with George Malcolm.
With this foundation it should come as no surprise to find that
his compositions are firmly embedded in the Anglican liturgical
tradition. This new disc of his choral music encompasses ten pieces
across a total of 31 tracks with only two of those tracks lasting
longer than four minutes. From this it can be seen that the works
chosen are all in what you might call a practical vein.
wish their works to be performed liturgically in cathedrals,
colleges and churches must take account of the realities of
church services and this Jackson does admirably. Not only
are the works of a suitable length, but many of them have
an extended organ part and take into account the practicality
of teaching long complicated vocal lines to boys.
Perhaps it helps
that Jackson is an organist and obviously has an interest
in writing dramatically and interestingly for his instrument.
The earliest piece, his first choral work, is the Mass
for a Saint’s Day which was highly successful from day
one. He makes much use of dramatic unisons and canon devices,
and the organ makes a large contribution.
in what the CD booklet describes as a modern-romantic idiom.
This means that his music fits neatly into the 20th
century Anglican tradition and contains nothing to frighten
the horses whilst retaining a good feel for texture and musical
interest. At first glance (or listen) the music sounds purely
English, but the ear then detects other influences. Jackson
admits to being influenced by Duruflé, Langlais and Messiaen
and it is the textures of Duruflé’s choral music which come
through in these works, particularly the later ones. The movements
written for his Requiem in 2006 are particularly
redolent of Duruflés Requiem.
is a slightly curious work. It is an expansion of his
Missa cum Jubilo, which was written in 1976 when the
Anglican Church updated the liturgy. In 2006 Jackson added
further movements to convert it piece into a Requiem Mass.
These newer movements are set in Latin, in strong contrast
to the modern English of the remainder. Jackson does not seem
to have modified the 1976 movements to fit the Requiem mass,
so that the work as recorded here includes a Credo and
a Gloria even though the Gloria is omitted from
the Requiem mass, and the words of the Agnus Dei have
not been changed to those required for the Requiem mass.
Missa cum Jubilo, Jackson’s mass incorporates many
plainchant themes. The choral writing is denser than the Mass
for a Saint’s Day and Duruflé’s influence can be seen
in the choral textures. The organ part is important and the
work concludes with an organ solo.
on the disc are a pair of Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis
settings, a Te Deum and Jubilate and a generous
selection of anthems and motets.
does not seem to have found its way much into the recording
catalogue. Perhaps the rather practical, useful nature of
these pieces has meant that they have been overlooked in favour
of better known works. Admirers of his music will, perhaps
be disappointed that this disc was not undertaken by a choir
of boys and men, but the Rodolfus Choir under Ralph Allwood
acquit themselves admirably.
The choir has
a lovely clear, bright sound though I could have wished that
their diction was better, especially as so many of the works
are recorded in English. A mass like the Requiem which
was written to showcase the new English Liturgy should surely
be sung with greater clarity of words.
The organ part
is admirably realised by Jeremy Filsell, with David Goode
contributing the accompaniment to the Pie Jesu of the
Requiem and the Magnficat and Nunc Dimittis
in the Lydian mode.
The CD booklet
includes the words as sung but without translations of the
Latin items. Nicholas Jackson also contributes an informative
As presented on
this disc, Jackson’s music is attractive, richly textured
and accessible to choir and audience whilst still providing
the stimulus of piquant harmonies. I would have liked a couple
of longer movements to get a better feel for his style.
Followers of the English
choral tradition will welcome this disc, particularly those who
have heard Jackson’s popular masses live.